Pop-up restaurant may seem as a new concept in Yangon. Recently, internationally-recognized pop-up Chef Joseph Lidgerwood made his stop to the city to showcase the twist of Myanmar ingredients in making dishes.
MYANMORE has a great opportunity to sit down and explore his world-tour culinary experience.
Q: When did you start developing passion for cooking?
A: I started when I was young by simple cooking with my mom. I helped her cooking in the canteen with simple dishes such as lasagna and salad. After that, I got my first job at a bakery shop when I was 15. The challenge of getting dishes out on time by the schedule has drawn me into cooking. It’s rewarding when you get it right.
Q: Which type of cuisine would you consider as your specialty?
A: It’s hard to say. What I do now is traveling the world doing pop-up restaurants, focusing on local cuisine. I wanted to do food based on surroundings, just taking ideas from other places, using local culinary techniques and culture and showcase it. I changed the ways of familiar ingredients–what people have passed by in the market everyday and twisted into more of a modern way.
Q: How many countries have you been?
A: I have no idea. I think 15, up to last year.
Q: How do you prepare before visiting each country?
A: It may be quite a naive approach to it. Instead of googling, I just make sure that when I land on the ground, I have an amazing team to show me around–the right people who show me the right thing. Like when I came to Myanmar, I have 57 below group (owner of Union Bar,Parami, and Gekko) to get into the local market here. Especially here, it’s hard to get the right documented information.
My team and I wake up at 5 a.m. everyday to explore the local wet markets until we immerse ourselves in the right stuff, for example, we have betel leaves as a dessert to change people’s perspective toward it.
Q: So,you have connection from around the world?
A : No, it’s more that people who have been to pop-up, inviting us to their locations. People are excited for us to come and show their countries.
Q: You have been to Korea, Nepal, and many others including the Mount Everest. What are some of similarities and differences you have experienced?
A: For me, the best way to discover a country for me is through food. You learn so much about the culture through food. Everyone loves food whether Vietnam or Nepal.
Q: What’s your most interesting experience?
A: It was a 10-day journey to the base camp of the Mount Everest. It was the most daunting experience.We have to deal with the altitude, how we can cook there, logistical problem, or even bringing up guests there. Building the menu as we went up there was an amazing experience.
Another one was when we were taking a train from Sapa to Hanoi, we decided to do a pop-up restaurant on the train. We decided in the morning, prepared all the ingredients, went on a train and knock on people’s doors. We just cooked for people.
Q: What brought you to Myanmar?
A: Someone approached me and I was fascinated by the fact that I didn’t know about Myanmar food.
Q: How did you find Myanmar?
A: It’s extremely hot and none of the recipes seem to work in this hot weather. People are here are super super friendly and very warm. It seems like a loving city and very bustling at the same time. Morning time in Yangon is my highlight.
Q: How do you plan to play with local ingredients?
A: Betel leaves to be a dessert, insects, jaggery, Myanmar Beer meringue, and Shan State tomato
Q: Where’s your next destination?
A: I’m off to America. I need to sharpen my skills up a bit more before I hit 30. I want to take it into the next level. It is kind of resetting my goal, yet,I don’t make many plans in advance.
Q: What’s your ultimate goal in life?
A: To have a restaurant but I don’t know. It changes everyday. So, I will just keep learning and keep evolving.